The online Think Tank event on December 2021 was a great opportunity for discussing DestiMED Plus results, project successes and shortcomings, as well as lessons learned and challenges for the future
DestiMED Plus Mid-Term Think Tank event took place on the 14th of December 2021 as a virtual event with 63 participants coming from different organizations, such as the Union for the Mediterranean in the governance session or Intrepid Travel in the marketing session.
The objectives were to discuss the results of DestiMED Plus project and to explore potential synergies and collaboration opportunities with similar regional and global initiatives, including the MEET Network. In addition, suggestions for project follow up, its assets and post-project phase were proposed.
Impact Monitoring, Market and Governance of the project were discussed highlighting the main successes, failures, opportunities, challenges and key recommendations. During the discussion, participants freely exchanged knowledge, ideas and suggestions.
Great attention was given to the methodology (Ecological Footprint Calculator and Socio-Economic Sustainability) that was developed under DestiMED Plus project to measure MEET ecotourism packages’ impact.
Participants agreed that public-private cooperation is fundamental for the creation of ecotourism experiences and that it gives stakeholders the possibility to collaborate in reaching common goals. Also, thanks to this, service providers have started to take the monitoring aspect seriously, understanding the importance of tourism sustainability for the planet and their businesses as well.
Those service providers who are active about the monitoring process can become the best ambassadors to inform other providers - Global Footprint Network
On the other hand, the current monitoring process was found to be complex and demanding for service providers in terms of data sharing and it was also perceived as a time-consuming tool. More could be done in terms of simplifying this process to easily collect data and to better engage service providers in this task.
Marketing and Commercialisation
The second session dealt with the activities related to ecotourism product development, commercial partnerships and interactions with the tourism market.
The ecotourism footprint calculator was recognized as a novelty, appreciated by guests and partners and also here the public-private cooperation was at the core of the success of the project.
In addition, Covid-19 pandemic has triggered an urgent need for nature-based sustainable forms of tourism, and media and industries are all pushing on this trend, often with greenwashing marketing scams. MEET can play an important role in fighting this, since its monitoring process goes beyond just measuring carbon emissions, representing sustainability in full. Yet, it needs to be simplified: an easier and more effective communication of MEET methodology could be very useful.
On the contrary, the negative aspects included firstly the difficulty by ITOs to share the same values and to balance financial returns and other aspects of sustainability. Secondly, participants highlighted the need to include the commercial partners earlier in the interaction with Local Ecotourism Clusters (LECs), especially at the beginning, so that they can better understand market demands and what that means in terms of product development.
As result of the discussion, participants agreed on the main objective of Mediterranean Ecotourism Consortium’s (MEC), a cross-sectoral group working to improve ecotourism governance at Mediterranean level: its aim is to develop an integrated ecotourism model which has to be adopted and scaled-up by each member of the MEC. Its strategic axes are governance, lobbying, training and networking.
Digitalization and technologies may be better exploited for MEC’s objectives as well as synergy and cooperation opportunities. These tools are very useful for the development of a common brand for the Mediterranean as a single global destination, a leading ecotourism destination.
Finally, the most important key recommendations drawn from the Think Tank are simplified below:
- Partnership between private and public organizations
- Simplification of the monitoring and product development cycle while maintaining MEET’s core values of Connection, Compassion, Community and Conservation
- Employment of technology and best practices from adjacent sectors
- Use of agile management principles, such as peer-to-peer education with expert practitioners and interactive design
- Deployment of strategic communication and marketing
- Focus on value rather than activity
Check out our previous article on the Think Tank event.